Wellington turned on some awesome weather for this early childhood get-together on Friday 15th May 2015 – the day after flooding had totally disrupted the whole city. Unpredictable events, untameable weather. Yet it didn’t disrupt the kaupapa of the day, which was to give a boost to research connections which can fade through lack of maintenance if we do not get together and exchange current interests and ideas. This hui, convened by the early childhood education (ECE) special interest group of the NZ Association of Research in Education (NZARE), was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect.

One of the main attractions for me at this hui (apart from the fact that it was local and therefore easy for me to get to) was the keynote speaker: Marilyn Fleer. I have been an admirer of her work on play and subject knowledge in early childhood for a long time. I wasn’t disappointed. Marilyn explained her latest project to us  through the lens of her latest conceptual framework – that of perenzhivanie.

This was a concept I had seen written, hadn’t heard pronounced, and was curious about. It appears to involve a metacognitive approach to experience, encompassing both the experience and the awareness of the experience – maybe like lucid dreaming ? A slippery concept which was difficult to get my head around, yet Marilyn made a very good attempt at an explanation. This was one of those times when it was better to be there than to hear about it or read about it. She made good use of the audience, as well as the power of demonstration and metaphor.

Perenzhivanie was also explained further in Margaret Brennan’s presentation on her current research with ECE teachers, which looked at the emotional relationships between teachers and infants – something the literature says (and my experience agrees) is of great importance. Yet Margaret found that the teachers did not articulate this emotional attachment and this gave her a conceptual problem: how to analyse someone’s emotions if they can’t tell you about them. “Emotions” are not observable behaviours. Therefore Margaret was also turning to the concept of perenzhivanie to try to explain the silence in the teachers’ talk, a way to reconcile the dichotomy of personal and sociocultural, cognition and affect.

I’m still working on understanding the concept, but at least I think I’ve got the pronunciation sorted (with a kiwi accent, of course).